Update III: The Writing Process

I have been writing my final essay for a little over a week now (NOTE: this post was written a week ago but not posted until now). This is the first writing project of this length that I have ever done—I am estimating a first draft of around 30-35 pages, single spaced. I have learned a lot from the writing process though. Here are a couple of things:

  1. Outlining is vital to a project of this size, but it can’t solve everything. Sometimes just getting started typing is the best way to overcome writers block.
  2. Revision is the most important part of the process. Right now I am getting the narrative down, but in the process of building this skeleton I miss a lot of the flesh of the work, which I can hang upon the frame at the end of the process.
  3. I am eternally grateful for keeping electronic notes, because the “control-f” function for searching documents is a great improvement for finding quotes.
  4. It is hard choosing what sources to use and which to eliminate.

Of all of these lessons, the last one is perhaps the hardest for me right now. There are so much interesting connections within Bellesiles saga—connections between the academics, poor behavior, gossip, etc.—that would make for an interesting read but wouldn’t particularly illuminate American gun culture. I am in the process of figuring out what factoids to include (they do keep the narrative entertaining) and which ones to exclude. In the end, I will have to parse out a lot of these facts.

The outline for the paper that I am using right now is fairly straightforward: introduction, overview of Arming America and the Bellesiles’s controversy, examination of why gun owners took such offense to the book, examination of why early reviewers praised the book, and a conclusion. As mentioned, the most difficult part will be editing out the unneeded sections. Currently I am a little over halfway done—I will provide another blog update when the rough draft is finished.